Smart move by GOP leader [Rep-Am]

February 29, 2016

Republican-American Editorial

Since he became Connecticut Senate minority leader in January 2015, Sen. Leonard A. Fasano, R-North Haven, has demonstrated interest in urban issues.

In a letter to the Republican-American published Jan. 3, 2015, Sen. Fasano disclosed the Senate GOP caucus’ plans to reach out to city residents; share Republican policy proposals; and consider responses.

Two months later, Senate Republicans unveiled an urban agenda with an emphasis on loans to small businesses; tax credits for housing, commercial and mixed-use projects; and criminal-justice reform. Meeting with the New Haven Register’s editorial board this month, Sen. Fasano offered plans to fight poverty, modify unemployment-compensation awards, enhance job-training programs for urban residents, and remediate brownfields.
It is important to improve Connecticut’s cities. As Sen. Fasano told the Register board, “The strength of our state is dependent on the strength of our cities.”

An urban focus also makes political sense. That may explain a prominent Democratic leader’s snarky response to Sen. Fasano’s talk with the Register.

During recent election cycles, Connecticut Republicans seemingly haven’t tried to make inroads with urban voters, who have been strong backers of Democrats for decades. Republicans banked on strong vote totals in the state’s small towns. That was a mistake. Republicans needed decent showings in the cities, to pad their numbers from the towns and push themselves over the top.

The GOP candidate who most infamously wrote off the cities was 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial standard-bearer Tom Foley. Back in 2013, The (New London) Day editorial board noted that if Mr. Foley had followed the examples of former Govs. John G. Rowland and M. Jodi Rell — the winning Republican nominees in the elections of 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006 — and tried to appeal to city residents, he would probably have won the 2010 election. Sam S.F. Caligiuri and Andrew W. Roraback, the GOP nominees for the 5th Congressional District seat in 2010 and 2012, respectively, were criticized for not spending adequate time in cities like Waterbury ahead of winnable elections.

Republicans are shut out of the governor’s office, lieutenant governor’s office, the four constitutional offices and the congressional delegation. They are in the minority in both legislative chambers.

Turning the tide depends on improved showings in the cities.

Sen. Fasano’s urban focus may help improve the Republican brand in the eyes of urban voters.

Indeed, the GOP may find an especially receptive audience at present. As we noted in a March 19, 2015 editorial, when one considers Connecticut Republicans have had “insufficient clout” since 1987, it is difficult to pin the struggles of the cities on them.

Democrats may fear what a Republican urban focus would mean at the polls.

Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney of New Haven, who becomes more shrill by the week, dismissed Sen. Fasano’s city plans as “talking points that pay lip service to the critical role our cities and their residents play.”